The Forbidden Gate
|Wonderfully Tacky: The Beauty Crown Hotels|
I woke up at the crack of dawn again on the day of the pageant after another sleepless night. Immediately I checked my phone to see if my friend had responded about the possibility of getting tickets. The answer was that there was STILL no news about tickets. This was even worse than the 2010 outing when it was just as hard to get tickets, but at least I organised them the day before the event. My friend and I agreed to meet at the Beauty Crown at 10am.
I headed down to breakfast and, for the first time, I could really feel the Miss World fever. It was very clear who was staying at the hotel for the Miss World Pageant and who were just regular guests. There was a large group from French Polynesia who were there to support Miss World France. On my way up to my room I stopped to wish them good luck and say that I think their girl would do very well. I then rushed up to post my final Stairway to the Crown Leaderboard and off I went to the Beauty Crown.
Now I must say that I thought the Beauty Crown hotels looked super tacky when I saw them on photos, but in real life they are actually pretty impressive. They are definitely unlike any other hotels, so I was impressed by the creativity that went into the design process
Upon arrival at the gate where you enter the grounds of the hotel and Beauty Crown Theater, I quickly realized that another nightmare had started. I asked the staff where I could get tickets for Miss World. First of all, they did not know what I was saying AGAIN. Then when someone who could speak English came to the gate, I was told that the tickets could be obtained from the second floor of the hotel, but that you needed a pass to get in and that you would you get a pass with the tickets. So I needed a pass to get a ticket, but the passes came with the tickets. That made perfect sense of course… in China.
The wait had started. It would be a wait that would last for 1 hour and 55 minutes in the hot Sanya sun. Well, the sun was nice, but it was the constant and all too familiar sound of spitting that grated on my nerves the most. I was constantly in contact with my friend and we were both kind of surprised by how hard it was to get a ticket and/or people who could explain what was going on.
In the meantime, I saw some interesting things. Some directors were arriving for the national directors’ meeting and people were coming and going. The ones who got in, I was told, were the ones who had gone through this exact struggle in the days before the actual day of the crowning to eventually get hold of this elusive pass that seemed like a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. I was kind of irritated. Yes, I am just a fan, but I also do not think it is so outrageous to just want to BUY a ticket to an important event. I did not want to get anything for free or do anything wrong. I actually just wanted to spend a pretty decent and generous (for a pageant) amount of money so I could have a good seat at an event that I had been looking forward to for a long time.
I was not the only person who became extremely irate. The parents and sister of Miss Gibraltar had the same problem. They spent 40 minutes trying to get in and explained that they were one of the contestant’s parents and they wanted to get tickets. They were just blankly shut down by the staff on site who pretty much just talked in circles. In what seemed to be a recurring theme, it seemed like NOBODY knew exactly what was going on. It seemed like they were not prepared to deal with these kind of “issues”. That’s if you could call people wanting to attend a “show” an “issue”. They had no way of solving the problem. For them it was just, no pass = no entry. More people who arrived faced the same problem and some angry phone calls were made and I heard from my sources that even some national directors had a meltdown or two. It pretty much went like this. “Come and collect the tickets from the second floor.” “Oh, but we can’t enter without a pass.” “You will get a pass with the tickets.” There was a lot of frustration and quite a few curse words. Now, once again, I totally understand that I am just a fan and that I mean absolutely nothing to the MWO and that they have no obligations to me whatsoever. But I did feel awful for the parents of the contestants. This was supposed to be a special day not only for girls, but also for their families who had spent lots of money to get to Sanya. The vibe turned quite negative and understandably so, because the people felt disrespected. I had to keep my cool and stay calm, because technically I actually had no right to be there. I was not a contestant’s family or a national director. I was just an outsider trying to get accepted to this “members only club”. It was a bit embarrassing and by then I had decided that it would probably be the last time that I attend a Miss World Pageant, because I felt lower than low, like a persona non grata.
After lots of phone calls and angry words, the Chinese staff became extremely impatient. I heard them calling Miss World's British staff and it became clear that there were two camps: the Miss World cluster group (the British staff) and the Miss World host group. I sensed that there was a communication gap between the two groups. Actually, by that time, I had managed to find my sense of humour again and having lived this for a few years, I could only imagine how hard it must have been for the British staff. I am sure there were a lot of “Yes, but no” answers and even more “No, but yes” answers. This would only make sense to a person who has actually lived in the Far East.
Finally, after what felt like going round and round in circles for 40 minutes, a staff member of the Miss World Organization showed up. He was quite laid-back and very kind and immediately made sure that the family of Miss Gibraltar was let in. I had opted not to humiliate myself any longer (after my name dropping of a few contacts got me absolutely NOWHERE at all), so I just sheepishly stood around. I decided that I would wait for another 15 minutes and then I would just totally give up and forget about Miss World. As the parents of Miss Gibraltar made their way in, her dad suddenly turned around and said: “That guy must get in, too. He has been waiting out here for so long.” It took only 30 seconds of explaining for the Miss World staff member to say: “He’s coming with me.” I was beyond grateful not only to the Miss Gibraltar’s dad who absolutely did not have to help me, but also to this Miss World staff member who was really nice. He explained that he got stuck outside several times.
I was quite impressed by the size of the whole complex. A lot of money was spent on this development. I still could not decide if the whole concept and the decoration and design were wonderful or tacky – so maybe it’s just wonderfully tacky. As we entered the hotel and got ready to go up to the second floor, I saw a few of the girls. Most of them had their curlers in and full makeup on already. It was midday. By that time, I was so depleted after my two-hour wait that I could actually just not even have cared less. I just remember thinking to myself that it was easy to even in just five seconds be able to tell who the sincere ones were, who the divas were and also who the ones were that just have had enough of the whole experience.
We entered the large bar and reception area on the second floor to a jovial atmosphere. The mood was quite festive, as the national directors had just concluded their annual ND meeting. They were chatting like long lost relatives and lots of hugs were being exchanged. It was exciting to see so many familiar faces, but I was honestly so discouraged that I remained mostly untouched. The excitement was gone for me. I overheard that some of the NDs were surprised that Mrs. Morley did not attend this meeting as it was the first time that she had failed to go to the ND meeting. She probably had her own issues with the host committee or she probably got tired of hearing complaints.
I waited at the bar area where the tickets were supposed to be handed out. I was on the list and just wanted to pay for my ticket and get out of there. At this point I thought that the tickets were about RMB1000 (just over $150) and I was fine with that. In fact, I would gladly have paid RMB2,000 or even more if I could just buy my own ticket and select a seat I wanted to be in without having to be humiliated by pretty much almost begging for one. My friend who I had known for several years came over and that was actually the biggest highlight for me up until that point. It was the first time that we met in person and it was a true delight after having shared so many pageant ups and downs. He informed me that it was actually the coronation ball tickets that were RMB1000 and that tickets to show were being given out for free. I found that interesting. I still maintain that I would have paid to just get tickets if I felt good about the whole thing. After a brief exchange of words, I followed my friend’s advice to rather not get tickets for the champagne gala afterwards. I was pretty much fed up and disappointed that an event I had looked forward to for so long turned out to be such a disappointment.
The tickets were still not there. Apparently they would only arrive between 3 and 4 – about 3 hours before everyone had to be seated. Personally, I felt that was disorganization at its very best. On my way out, I did manage to chat to a few national directors. That was a thrill and I must say that Mrs. Morley can thank her lucky stars that she gets to work with a bunch of loyal, energetic and positive people who have a true passion for the brand. I wonder if they are appreciated by the organization. Even though some of them might have been disappointed by the way things were going, they were true professionals and did not let it dampen their enthusiasm. I did pick up that everyone believed that Miss Russia would win. Apparently it was the trending topic during the preceding 48 hours as the girls started talking about it after Miss Russia “apparently” told another delegate that the organization told her she should get ready to take the crown. Now we all know by know this was proven to just be a rumor as Miss Russia actually finished as the runner-up to Miss World. But that’s life in the pageant world – there are always loads of rumors and gossip that fly around in the final days before the event.
I was still ticketless and headed back to my hotel to go and get changed for the main event. We would return at 5pm in search of the elusive golden tickets.
(TO BE CONTINUED…)